The Summer of 1981 was the best summer of my teen years. My on-off relationship with Kevin the Lifeguard was on again, I didn’t need to get a job yet, MTV debuted, and most of my time was spent at the pool (although Kevin was no longer a lifeguard) or watching videos.
Howard Stern was on the radio (DC 101!), and he was FUNNY. He was God doing the weather; he did skits like “Leave it to Cleavage.” Kevin and I even attended a huge tug-of-war event he and Robin Quivers hosted on the DC Mall.
One day we were at Kevin’s house for a BBQ, and some of his friends attended (including Vinnie, who I had a mad crush on, but that’s another story). Kevin’s mom didn’t care that we all consumed beer, so of course it was flowing (Michelob was popular with us at that time). Admittedly, we got pretty hammered, and with nothing else to do decided to go see Stripes. (Don’t worry, nobody drove drunk.)
Now, I don’t know if it was because we were lit or because the movie was really that funny, but we laughed like hyenas the whole way through. I’m sure the guys in our group were bothering the audience, because they had to have running commentary the entire time. It was funny to us, but now I know how obnoxious teens in a movie theater can be. We were those obnoxious teens.
But who can keep their laughter in when Bill Murray is on the screen? We could’ve reined it in if we hadn’t had all the beer, but God, we had a good time. There was a bit of popcorn tossing as well, much to the delight of the other patrons, I’m sure.
Bill Murray as John was similar to Alan Alda’s portrayal of Hawkeye, only a LOT funnier and more irreverent. I know M*A*S*H was edgy (both the movie and series), but Stripes pretty much kicked M*A*S*H’s portrayal of Army life in the ass. I feel sorry for the people who signed up to serve after seeing this movie and thinking life in the Army would be that funny!
John convinces Russell (Harold Ramis) to join the Army since their lives are going nowhere. They’ll get in shape, see the world and meet girls! They end up in a platoon of misfits, and due to their drill sergeant’s injury during a training accident, John ends up commanding the platoon.
We all laughed our asses off when the platoon showed off what Bill Murray had taught them for graduation. “That’s the fact, Jack!” Somehow they impress the general, and are sent to Italy, where they get into all kinds of trouble after somehow ending up in communist Czechoslovakia.
I do remember that the first half of the movie was funnier than the Italy part, but the beer had its way and I laughed along with everyone else. I haven’t seen the movie since, and to be honest, I don’t remember everything about the movie; in part due to the beer and in part because I haven’t seen it since that day 30 years ago (HOLY CRAP, I’M OLD).
We had so much fun that summer – days at the pool, nights spend in the woods with six-packs of beer, sitting around talking (maybe a little making out). One night we even climbed the fence to the pool and swam long after it had closed. That was a great night.
My kids won’t have those experiences. We live in a rural area where the parents know each other, so there’s no getting away with the stuff my friends and I got away with at ages 15 and 16. We used to walk all over the place, to the mall, movie theaters, the carnival -anyplace that promised a good time.
We were pretty much allowed to go anywhere; our parents worked and we were old enough to take care of ourselves. Sure, we got into a bit of trouble here and there, but our parents rarely knew. Our troubles were minor, no cops or anything, Plus, since we were a small town, we knew all the cops and hung out at the town hall sometimes where the police station was. They all knew kids drank in the woods and broke into the pool sometimes, but as long as were weren’t being destructive, they looked the other way.
Kevin and I saw other movies that summer during our on-again phase, but I think Stripes is one of my favorite memories because of just how much fun we had. Going with a group added to the fun as well.
Howard Stern is no longer funny, although my husband disagrees with me. I think he’s obnoxious now, and has none of the charm he had back in 1981. But many things no longer have the charm they did back then. I absolutely love summer, but they are no long carefree days for me; there are always chores that need to be done, kids that need to be driven somewhere, errands to be run. But I make sure the kids have a good time. I take them to the beach a lot, a nearby pool, and we see movies – but I don’t let them throw popcorn.
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